The assumption is that the way to monetize is by locking everyone into your walled garden “for free” and then feeding them as chum to your fellow aspiring monopolists.

1 - This is supposed to be illegal, 2 - It’s a fool’s game longterm, and 3 - It ignores the power of software.

The true power of software is in its costless replication. The ability to “stand on the shoulders of giants” has never been more stark than it is in software. Once a thing has been built, someone else can start, immediately, right from where the last person left off.

There’s a huge middleground between open source programming tools and the monolithic applications that have sucked up the attention market. “No-code” platforms have sprung up to let “non-programmers” build tools, but most are ultimately aiming to become further walled gardens.

The sad irony (and “lost value” if that’s how you think) is that those in the best position to help new companies prototype and solve new problems (and spur Growth™ and Innovation™), are the walled garden kingpins themselves.

And they can make lots of money doing it.

I’m not talking about anything revolutionary or even novel. A simplistic example is white labeling.

If we can all benefit from (and pay for) access to Amazon’s cloud infrastructure, why can’t we benefit from (and pay for) Twitter’s microposting infrastructure, for example?

Twitter’s a pretty good example because it behaves like a simple protocol and it’s very easy to imagine hundreds of businesses that could use it. If Twitter opened up white label access, they could have a piece of the revenue of every one of those hundreds of businesses.

I’m not talking about Twitter becoming Twilio and providing some kind of metered API for programmers to use. I’m talking about Twitter saying “Here’s your own Twitter and an ever-growing set of customizations, here’s a license, and here’s what it costs to use.”

Instead of needing to weigh every feature or development decision against “will this work for literally everyone in the world?” 100 new social networks could test, say, 100 ways to create safe communities online.

There are gobs of money to be made here and the only barrier to that is lack of imagination. Anyone who thinks the most optimal web is one where five advertising companies own the whole thing is just a sad sad person waiting for the inevitable heat death of the universe.